The gushing has begun. “In this moment I am so thunderstruck, so overwhelmed, that it is not easy, because I wasn’t really expecting so much, such a gift,” Roberto Benigni told Reuters TV in an interview an hour after the Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday. “Making ‘Saving Private Ryan,'” said Best Actor nominee Tom Hanks, “was a life’s experience for all of us on the film. To be nominated is a very special honor, to be nominated for ‘Ryan’ … all the more. I am, of course, very delighted. I am also very proud.” His modest director, Steven Spielberg, said: “I think this is a tribute to the veterans. It’s important that before this century is out ample recognition is paid to the veterans who saved the world.” As for Billy Bob Thorton (Supporting Actor nominee): “I’m surprised at my nomination but also very happy, because I loved this role so much. I share this nomination with everyone who made ‘A Simple Plan,’ and especially with Sam Raimi, my director, who helped me.”

  • Coolest response to a nomination: “It means after 100 films I finally got one right,” said James Coburn, 70 (and the star of such 1960’s films as “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Great Escape”), who got a Supporting Actor nod for “Affliction.”

  • Most gentlemanly response: “What’s very encouraging is to see Edward Norton’s nomination. He said to me I was the reason he became an actor. I hope I’m the reason he doesn’t win an Oscar.” — Best Actor nominee Ian McKellen, on the Best Actor nomination of Edward Norton for his role in “American History X.”

  • And worth noting: Meryl Streep’s 11th Oscar nomination (for Best Actress in “One True Thing”) ties her with Jack Nicholson for the number of acting nominations, and they are both one away from record-holder Katharine Hepburn’s 12 nominations. If Meryl wins her third Oscar this year (she is considered a longshot), she will tie with Ingrid Bergman, Walter Brennan and Nicholson as triple winners. The Great Kate (Hepburn) still holds the record though, with four Best Actress Academy Awards.

See a list of the nominees